The 16th President of the United States had a good reason for warning against changing course in the middle of a journey, or in his case, a Civil War: he was running for re-election. But Lincoln’s advice is often repeated in wildly different circumstances, as if consistency were the key to achieving any long-term goal. Well, I’d like to suggest something different, that adapting to and even initiating change is often a better course.
I saw a cartoon a while ago that showed a caterpillar and a butterfly having coffee in a café. The caterpillar says to the butterfly, “You’ve changed.” The butterfly smiles and responds, “Isn’t that what we are supposed to do?” For us humans, too, change is an inevitable part of life.
As much as we might want life to stay simple and unvarying, disorder — in our lives and in our world — can often rear its ugly head. We are not the same people we were five years ago, and we won’t be the same people with the same lives five years from now. Still, our plans and aims often remain unchanged. So how do we expect to achieve our long-term goals without adapting — without changing horses in midstream and elsewhere too, if necessary?
All sorts of things can put us on a different path. A job loss or an unexpected inheritance can change our financial situations dramatically. An unexpected third child might upset our plans for early retirement. A change in interest rates could make paying off our mortgages much more feasible. Or a change in estate tax laws might dramatically modify our legacy planning, and a shift in income tax brackets could put more money in our pockets, so we can take those trips we’ve been needing for the past three years.
Change is often beyond our control, of course, and many times it can occur quite suddenly. But it is also something we can usually adapt to, work around, even embrace. Still, we must see and acknowledge evolving circumstances when they occur, mitigating difficulties and taking advantage of opportunities. Which is very hard to manage on your own. The value of a good financial advisor is that she can show you how even the smallest responses might impact your future positively, and how doing nothing can result in countless setbacks.
While the goals you set yourself might remain fairly fixed, your path to the finish line will generally require constant monitoring and revision. Do you have all the necessary resources to do this well? If not, call us for a no-obligation, complimentary consultation. Together we can map a reasonable path toward your financial goals, knowing full well that the twister that is life might force us to alter course many times. Your dreams are too important to throw away.